I recently finished reading The Black Swan, by Nicholas Nassim Taleb.  It’s a brilliant book, but I’m nowhere near smart enough to review it in the manner it deserves.  The reason I mention it is that Black Swan introduced me to the term ‘flâneur’.  Taleb uses it as a word for someone who lounges, a loafer, someone who isn’t part of the ‘rat race’ and instead sits around reading books, visiting cafes, taking aimless walks.  Of course, becoming a flâneur has now become my goal.

Wiki gives meaning to the term thus:

the basic meanings of “stroller”, “lounger”, “saunterer”, “loafer”—which itself comes from the French verb flâner, which means “to stroll”. Charles Baudelaire developed a derived meaning of flâneur—that of “a person who walks the city in order to experience it”

Now doesn’t that sound like a brilliant thing to be?  I’m really not far off being all these things.  But not full-time.  I already like walking.  When I moved home I knew that I wouldn’t feel fully comfortable in the area until I walked the streets .  And doesn’t that fit in perfectly to Baudelaire’s description above?  Driving through it isn’t the same, you’ve got to get the place under your feet.  You see so many things you’d otherwise miss if driving through.  You get a true idea of distance from point to point, and see the lanes, the paths, the shortcuts.

“You gotta see the streets. You gotta feel it. You gotta smell it, you gotta taste the streets.” – Alonzo Harris, Training Day.

While I wouldn’t go as far as tasting them, he has a point.  And any excuse to work a Training Day quote in.

The other definitions of flâneur are attractive as well.  They may sound like the definition of the average jakie, at home all day watching Jeremy Kyle, drinking Tennents Special, scratching their scrotum.  And there is a fine line.  But I see it as unregulated personal development.  Imagine waking up on a Monday morning and not having to race out for work.  Instead, you get some breakfast, then sit and read a book for a while.  At some point (and you’re the one who decides when), you go out to a cafe.  Walking there, of course.  With your mind now humming along, you sit down with your drink, stick your laptop on, and do some work.  You rattle away on the keyboard for a few hours, then head home again.  No time constraints, no schedule.  It’s not about not working, it’s about not having to follow some predetermined routine forced upon you.  Short, intense hours of work, when you want to, being more productive than the Mon-Fri, 9-5 drag, where you work listlessly, trying to justify your full-time wage by looking busy.  Getting on a train full of other rat-racers, all soullessly ploughing through the days, wishing for the weekend or death.  Loaf for a bit, stroll for a bit, work for a bit – whenever you want.  Flâneurs unite.  When we can be bothered.

One thought on “Flâneur

  1. The Black Swan is a great book. One of my all-time faves. I too have set out on a course to become the world’s finest flaneur.

    I actually think we need to form some sort of Flaneur Club. Let me know if you are down. Email me anytime.

    kevinrehberg @ gmail . com

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